The intense summer heat is gone. There is softness in the air, the October light has changed the quality of our days, and there is usually a breeze which makes Ava take notice. She squints and looks around, holds her face up, freezing for a moment at the way it feels on her eyes. I watch my granddaughters, Rebecca and Ava, three afternoons a week. Rebecca is turning 6 in one month and Ava is 7 months old. I stay for dinner and help out with dinner, bath time, and clean up.
We drift through these autumn afternoons by being quiet, but we sing, too. I’ve been teaching them Zippity Doo Dah. Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder. It’s the truth, my oh my, what a wonderful day! Rebecca and I sing. Ava listens.
Ava is sitting up, then overnight she has learned how to crawl. She does something like a pushup and stiffens her legs trying to stand. Her baby neck is thinner; she is beginning to look like a little girl rather than a baby. She has chubby sturdy legs to kiss and blow on. Ava’s head is covered with white blond hair that looks red in the sun. I have to stop myself from rubbing it all the time it is so soft.
On these warm afternoons, I take the girls out to the front yard. Rebecca either climbs the small elm or swings from the knotted rope suspended from a limb, while I sit on the grass with the baby. Ava loves the feel and sound of dried leaves, crinkly, rubbing them between her hands, she goes to eat them, and in one swift motion I uncurl her little hands, brushing the leaves back to the earth. We both watch Rebecca swing from her rope like Tarzan. I try to teach her the yell, but I can’t do it right.
I hold Ava under her arms and bounce her up and down while she does a little baby dance, feet doing a jig. Rebecca and I let her join us in a game of kickball. I swing the baby brushing her feet against the ball so she actually kicks it to her older sister. Ava takes it all in seriously like she wants to do a good job. Her eyes are dark blue marbles, her cheeks pink, her mouth holds two bottom teeth that are barely visible.
I marvel at Rebecca’s strength. Her hands are covered with healed over blisters from mastering the rings at school. Her big top teeth have come in. Her face is sweaty from the exertion, making her look like a Renaissance painting with blond curls that encircle her face, dark blue eyes, pink tiny mouth. Sometimes she climbs too high and it scares me. I love that she climbs trees and appears fearless. I wish she would come down, too, but I don’t say that. I just urge her to come down a little bit.
We have serious bath time discussions. Rebecca tells me that she doesn’t want me to spend any time with anyone but her. I tell her I understand and still, “Would she like it if I didn’t like her little sister?” Just something to think about, I tell her. I understand about jealousy I say. Then I tell her how when I read something someone has written that is very popular sometimes I feel a little jealous. I want my writing to be liked a whole lot, too. Love me best. Please.
I try to tell her how love doesn’t run out, there’s always enough, how you love people in different ways. I search for the words in a continuous inner dialog, something to put into print and illustrate how deep my love for her runs. “I’ve known you for almost 6 years. I’ve only known Ava for 7 months. Do you see how that might be different?” She is not convinced.
I try to take a mental snapshot of the soft light, Rebecca’s strong arms holding herself swinging in the air, the baby pulling grass, then smiling up at me to show me her hands full of green tufts and I wish it to go on forever.